House Pulls Southeast Arizona Land Exchange

Dec 2, 2013

The House continued its consideration of the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange in November, when the bill was rescheduled to be brought to the floor. Since the bill’s consideration on September 26, which included voting on two of the three proposed amendments, the land exchange has remained in limbo with no definitive date for voting. At the end of November, Rep. Luján’s amendment concerning sacred sites had not been voted on and H.R. 687 as a whole was pulled from the floor. This holds great significance, as just two months ago the House seemed poised to approve the exchange without delay.

The debate over the land exchange has now moved to the Senate, where Arizona Senators Flake and McCain have introduced a Senate version of the land exchange, S. 339. On November 20, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining held a hearing on a variety of bills concerning public lands--including S. 339. Sen. Flake, who is a member of the subcommittee, was the only one to offer a statement strongly supporting the exchange. Testimonies from Sen. Henrich (NM), Steve Ellis of the Bureau of Land Management, and Leslie Weldon of the Forest Service shared concerns that the bill does not require a timely analysis in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) nor require sufficient and meaningful consultation with tribal authorities.

Terry Rambler, San Carlos Apache Tribal Chair, gave a moving testimony during which he highlighted the strong national opposition to the exchange and cited specific examples of the longstanding significance of sacred sites at Oak Flat, an area of the Tonto National Forest that would become mining land under the proposed bill.

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